Having had the Better Busines Bureau fail me terrible in the past I post this story as another example of how they are hurting people and not just failing them by even staying in business. Be warned
If they cant do there job (BBB) and they give people false information or dont have reports on really bad compaies when folks go look at there website, then I believe they should just fold up and close there doors as they are part of the problem. Read the Seattle PI news papers stories below.
Then read whats on the BBB website about the business. Get real BBB U SUCK..
Monday, July 18, 2005
Central District investors blame developer in disputed land deals
By CECILIA KANG
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
For the owners of small but revered Central District businesses such as Carol's Essentials, Ezell's Famous Chicken and Mana Beauty Supply & Salon, the pitch was irresistible.
Partnering with a local developer, they could buy units in planned commercial buildings, build residential town homes on property they already owned or subdivide their existing lots for resale. It was a chance at escape velocity, an opportunity to make some money and move into a more stable economic class, all while helping to develop Seattle's fast-growing South End.
Meryl Schenker / P-I
Mana Kahshay says she and Ghrmai Mebrahtu were misled about a project to redevelop a building for commercial space in the Central District.
And it helped that the developer, Laurance D. Anthone, was a Central District product himself. Fluent in the arcane language of real estate, Anthone wore the cloak of experience and success. On his office walls hung architectural drawings for such loftily named projects as "Queens Plaza" and "Eden Estates."
Two years later, the dream has all but shattered for at least 31 investors, who stand to lose at least $500,000 on more than a dozen development deals.
The new condominiums and town homes never materialized. In many cases, ground was never even broken on these and several other projects. Investors lost their homes, life savings and even the savings of grandchildren.
"People are getting hurt all over the city," said Carol Houston, the owner of Carol's Essentials, who invested $10,000 in one of Anthone's commercial building projects. "And no one seems to care because he's still in his office and running around the city with new projects."
A Seattle Post-Intelligencer review of court documents and licensing and property records, as well as dozens of interviews with investors, attorneys and former employees, revealed that since 2003 Anthone accepted at least $476,750 in cash from investors and entered into at least five private-property development partnerships.
The records show that 16 projects he controlled since 2003 remain incomplete, investors' cash deposits have not been returned and several properties have gone into foreclosure.
Meryl Schenker / P-I
Laurance Anthone concedes he hasn't finished more than a dozen projects under way in 2003.
Anthone (pronounced an-toh-NAY) concedes he hasn't finished more than a dozen projects under way in 2003, but he said his company, MA Quik Framing Inc., has completed 20 others. He denies that he misled investors. In an interview at his Tukwila office, Anthone said he is the victim of a concerted attack by former employees and "bad buyers." The 43-year-old developer said a barrage of lawsuits against him and harassment by investors hindered his business and his ability to complete projects.
"Their intent is malicious," he said. "But I'm still in business and I'm working 20 hours a day trying to keep this business intact."
Last January, the state Department of Financial Institutions ordered Anthone to stop engaging in profit-sharing development deals with investors because he gave false or incomplete data on past development deals and because he is not a registered securities dealer.
He also has a 2004 bench warrant out for his arrest on two development-related crimes and at least 14 lawsuits filed against him. Still, Anthone has nine new development projects in the works, according to his Web site, and is seeking job applicants for three open positions.
The Web site shows pictures of finished buildings as well but doesn't label the projects with names or descriptions. When asked to identify the locations of the 20 projects he claims are completed, Anthone refused.
"I'm not into proving something to nobody," he said.
'Get out of that deal!'
Those who once bought into a gleaming image say they are now wondering whether Anthone, who spent his adolescence and much of his adult life in obscurity around the Central District, ever intended to finish his projects or if he only wanted to pocket investors' money.
In the tight-knit African American community of the Central District, several business owners and longtime residents poured their savings into projects run by Anthone, who is black. But despite the close ties within the neighborhood, many investors said they only learned of their mutual connections to Anthone after their money had vanished.
Meryl Schenker / P-I
Carol Houston says she lost a $10,000 investment with Laurance Anthone in a commercial store project. "Because he is African American, I thought he was trying to help the community," she said.
Houston, the owner of Carol's Essentials ethnic cards and gifts shop on 23rd Avenue, met Anthone in early 2003 through a customer who also invested in an MA Quik project. Houston went to Anthone's office, which is across the street from the Tukwila Police Department, and was impressed by what she saw.
"Everything was very professional, with beautiful floor plans of projects hanging on the walls and state-of-the-art computers and equipment," Houston said.
She said Anthone articulately explained how buying a commercial condominium unit in his Skyway project, code named "Sky II," would allow her to make money on the area's rising property values.
The location was ideal. Houston, 49, was born and raised in the Central District and had seen much of her African American clientele move to the South End as prices for homes sharply increased near downtown.
"I'm a firm believer in supporting my community," said Houston, sitting behind the register at her store, which sells books such as "Chicken Soup for the African American Soul."
Houston said Anthone promised that the proposed three-story building would house well-known franchises, such as a Subway sandwich shop, a Curves gym and a coffee retailer such as Tully's or Starbucks. It seemed like the right kind of retail mix for a neighborhood that languished in neglect for many years. And Houston was reassured when her friend, Cynthia Jones, also invested in the Sky II project.
"Anthone had a good spiel about revitalizing the area around Skyway," Houston said. "And because he is African American, I thought he was trying to help the community."
Houston's husband, Ward, had been laid off from his job at the post office, and the couple had heavy expenses with their two daughters enrolled at Howard University. So they decided to open a second store as an investment for the future. They put down a $10,000 deposit on a $295,000 commercial unit in the Sky II project.
When the July 2003 completion date passed and nothing was built on the Renton Avenue lot, Houston and other investors lost confidence in the project. They demanded a refund of their deposits, but Anthone didn't return their calls. After finally contacting Anthone, Houston said, he returned her deposit of $10,000, but the check bounced. Anthone said he was unaware of the bounced check.
By mid-2004, Houston and others in the Central District began talking about their investment mishaps and found that Anthone had made similar deals throughout the area.
Lewis Rudd, an owner of Ezell's Famous Chicken restaurants, walked into Houston's store and started talking about a property investment with Anthone that had gone sour. In February 2003, Rudd and Ezell Stephens, childhood friends from Texas, had signed over a lot they owned on 23rd Avenue next to their restaurant for Anthone to develop into four residential town homes.
The developer didn't complete any work on the land, and when he missed payments on a loan for the property, the land went into foreclosure, Rudd said. The restaurant owners spent more than $80,000 to reclaim it.
Rudd said he learned later that Anthone used Rudd's name to lure more investors, including his brother Wayne Rudd, into other property deals.
"I don't know if he is terribly bad at business and was in over his head, or if he never intended to take care of any of his investors in the first place," Lewis Rudd said in an interview. "I'm baffled to this day."
Around the same time, the owners of Mana Beauty Supply & Salon, just a few doors down from Carol's Essentials, hired Anthone to develop an existing building into a commercial space on their property in Rainier Valley on Rainier Avenue South. Mana Kahshay and Ghrmai Mebrahtu said Anthone presented himself as a contractor and told them the project would take just three months and cost $45,000.
Kahshay and Mebrahtu, both 49, weren't aware of Anthone's deteriorating reputation until Houston called them in a panic. Houston had driven by the couple's property and saw an "MA Quik Framing" sign on it.
"I just lost my breath when I saw that sign and told her, 'You have to get out. Get out of that deal right now!' " said Houston. But it was too late. Mebrahtu said he had signed a $20,000 check to Anthone just one day earlier.
The building is still incomplete nine months after construction began. Two liens have been placed on the property because Anthone didn't pay electrician bills, and the couple has spent $15,000 more than Anthone promised the construction would cost.
Others continue to suffer from their losses.
In 2003, Jones, who had recently been laid off from her job at Boeing, put $20,000 down on two units of the Sky II project to open a Curves gym.
The money came from her savings of nearly three decades at Boeing. Jones, 55, said she told Anthone she wanted to consult an attorney before signing a contract for the two units. But she said Anthone convinced her that an attorney would be expensive and wouldn't understand the complexity of his plan.
Anthone said in an interview that he recommended all his buyers should consult lawyers on development contracts.
Considering her deposit lost and needing money, Jones sold her home in Renton in late 2003 and cashed the education savings bonds she had set up for her grandchildren and her cousin's grandchildren.
"That hurt my heart so bad to have to take that money away from those babies," Jones said through tears.
"That was the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life."
Bringing in business
If there were any questions about MA Quik and its leader, investors placed their faith in the company's reputable employees.
Ray Jacobs was one of the two former Windermere agents who made up the marketing team at MA Quik Framing. He was well-known in the African American community and had deep roots in Seattle. The other marketing agent was Abner Eng, who drew in several Asian American clients.
The two real estate agents were looking for a break from brokering residential homes in late 2002 and wanted to enter the lucrative market of commercial property development. They joined MA Quik Framing at the start of 2003.
"Everything looked legitimate because (Anthone) was paying construction crews every Friday and we had met him through a legitimate source," Jacobs said in a telephone interview. "And he was the kind of person where even if you didn't believe something at first, he would talk you into believing it."
But their stint at MA Quik was brief. After eight months, the pair said, they realized Anthone wasn't going to complete his projects and they weren't going to make any money.
Jacobs and Eng left the firm in August 2003, and they are now witnesses for the owners of Ezell's Famous Chicken in their lawsuit against Anthone and MA Quik Framing.
Several plaintiffs contacted the fraud division of the King County Prosecutor's Office as early as the summer of 2004. When asked by a reporter about the pattern of lawsuits against Anthone, the spokesman for the prosecutor's office, Dan Donohoe, said: "This will be a priority and we will begin the process of looking at the civil lawsuits and look at the question of whether there should be additional criminal investigation."
'The hardest part of all of this'
Today, Anthone remains as much a mystery as when he burst onto the development scene in 2003. He says he spent much of his adolescence and adult life living and working in and around the Central District, but few had heard of him until he began seeking investors in the area.
In a recent interview, Anthone portrayed himself as someone thrown early into a life of independence. Born in Louisiana, he said he left home at the age of 13 as an "emancipated minor," caring for himself without help from his parents. He moved to Seattle as a teenager and "graduated himself through high school," Anthone said.
He said he was born under a different name -- Irving Nicholas -- and changed it to Laurance Anthone at the age of 16 when he discovered the name of his biological father.
Some of the personal details in his story did not check out.
Anthone said he graduated from Garfield High School. In fact, Seattle Public Schools has no record of a Laurance Anthone or Irving Nicholas graduating from any high school in the district.
He said that as a young adult he was in the Marine Corps, stationed at Camp Pendleton. U.S. Marine Corps officials said they have no record of Anthone's service.
He said he learned drafting as an apprentice of Seattle architect Donald King, although King said he has no recollection of Anthone.
On his company Web site, Anthone said he has 16 years of experience in construction and development. But the companies he claims to have worked for before founding MA Quik either do not exist or have no record of his employment.
Anthone said his experience in construction gradually led him into property development -- a largely unregulated industry that is loosely defined and easy to enter.
"Anyone can become a developer. All you need is a business license," said Patrick Hanis, a lawyer who is representing three plaintiffs in lawsuits against Anthone and MA Quik. "Is this a problem? Absolutely."
Tim Barchenger, a construction and compliance inspector at the Department of Labor and Industries, found Anthone in violation of contractor licensing rules. Based on Barchenger's investigation, the county prosecutor charged Anthone with two crimes: unregistered contracting and third-degree theft, the latter of which can carry a prison sentence of up to one year. The inquiry was begun after complaints by investors who later filed suit against Anthone.
But Barchenger said there is little his agency can do to monitor developers, particularly when they own the properties they develop.
Investors and employees now point to Anthone's unorthodox financial dealings and holes in his biography as warning signs.
In a recent court deposition, Anthone said he operates his business almost entirely in cash and only opened a personal bank account in 2004. In the same deposition, he said he sought construction financing from "hard money lenders" as opposed to traditional banks or private lenders.
But Anthone blames the delays in his development projects and the complaints against his company on his marketing team. He said that Jacobs and Eng brought investors who couldn't afford to fulfill their financial obligations and that otherwise Sky II would be completed, as would many other projects.
Anthone said the lawsuits against him have come at a great personal cost. According to a recent court deposition, Anthone said his annual salary is $85,000. But in an interview, he said he has barely made any money, having to put his own personal funds into delayed projects.
His wife recently left him, taking the couple's daughter with her. Anthone said his wife, Marcella, was fed up with her husband's business turmoil and feared investors who had made threatening phone calls to the couple's Federal Way home.
"I've been working 20 hours a day to get (the projects) all done, and I've lost my wife and my daughter in the process," Anthone said. "That has been the hardest part of all of this."
BY THE NUMBERS
Amount investors stand to lose: At least $500,000
Investors involved in deals: At least 31
Incomplete projects since 2003: 16
Lawsuits against developer: 14
More headlines and info from Central Area.
P-I reporter Cecilia Kang can be reached at 206-448-8315 or email@example.com.
Better Business Bureau comments abou this company.
BBB Reliability Report
The Better Business Bureau
Serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington
1000 Station Drive Suite 222
DuPont, WA 98327
MA Quik Framing Inc
6000 Southcenter Blvd Ste 20
Seattle, WA 98118
The BBB reports on members and non-members.
Principal: Mr Laurance D Anthone , CEO File Open Date: March 2005
TOB Classification: Real Estate Developers
BBB Membership: This company is not a member.
The Bureau develops a report on a firm based on inquiry or complaint activity. The BBB has not received a sufficient volume of requests for information, nor has the Bureau received any complaints on this firm to warrant the development of a report. The information provided, however limited, is presented to assist you in your purchasing decisions or for any other purpose you deem relevant. The BBB suggests you read and understand company promotional materials and contracts and check company references and licensing, where applicable.
I guess the Better Business Bureau employees live in a cave some where if they haven't read several front page newspaper articles that have millions of readers.
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